Tag Archives: Biodiversity

Elephants in the Samburu reserve in Kenya. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)

ARCHER’S POST, Kenya — Julius Lokinyi was one of the most notorious poachers in this part of Kenya, accused of single-handedly killing as many as 100 elephants and selling the tusks by the side of the road in the dead of night, pumping vast amounts of ivory into a shadowy global underground trade.

But after being hounded, shamed, browbeaten and finally persuaded by his elders, he recently made a remarkable transformation. Elephants, he has come to believe, are actually worth more alive than dead, because of the tourists they attract. So Mr. Lokinyi stopped poaching and joined a grass-roots squad of rangers — essentially a conservation militia — to protect the wildlife he once slaughtered.

Nowadays he gets up at dawn, slurps down a cup of sugary tea, tightens his combat boots and marches off with other villagers, some who had never picked up a gun before and are little more than volunteers, to fight poachers.

“We got to protect the elephants,” said Mr. Lokinyi, whose hooded eyes now glow with the zeal of a convert.

From Tanzania to Cameroon, tens of thousands of elephants are being poached each year, more than at any time in decades, because of Asia’s soaring demand for ivory. Nothing seems to be stopping it, including deploying national armies, and the bullet-riddled carcasses keep stacking up. Scientists say that at this rate, African elephants could soon go the way of the wild American bison.

But in this stretch of northern Kenya, destitute villagers have seized upon an unconventional solution that, if replicated elsewhere, could be the key to saving thousands of elephants across Africa, conservationists say. In a growing number of communities here, people are so eager, even desperate, to protect their wildlife that civilians with no military experience are banding together, grabbing shotguns and G3 assault rifles and risking their lives to confront heavily armed poaching gangs.

It is essentially a militarized neighborhood watch, with loping, 6-foot-6 former herdsmen acting as the block captains, and the block being miles and miles of zebra-studded bush. These citizen-rangers are not doing this out of altruism or some undying love for pachyderms. They do it because in Kenya, perhaps more than just about anywhere else, wildlife means tourists, and tourists mean dollars — a lot of dollars.

It is not unusual here for a floppy-hatted visitor to drop $700 a night to sleep in a tent and absorb the sights, sounds and musky smells of wondrous game. Much of that money is contractually bound to go directly to impoverished local communities, which use it for everything from pumping water to college scholarships, giving them a clear financial stake in preserving wildlife. The safari business is a pillar of the Kenyan economy, generating more than a billion dollars a year and nearly 500,000 jobs: cooks, cleaners, bead-stringers, safari guides, bush pilots, even accountants to tally the proceeds.

Surprisingly, many jobs in the safari industry can pay as much as poaching. Though the ivory trade may seem lucrative, it is often like the Somali pirate business model, with the entry-level hijacker getting just a minuscule cut of the million-dollar ransoms. While a pound of ivory can fetch $1,000 on the streets of Beijing, Mr. Lokinyi, despite his lengthy poaching résumé, was broke, making it easier to lure him out of the business.

Villagers are also turning against poachers because the illegal wildlife trade fuels crime, corruption, instability and intercommunal fighting. Here in northern Kenya, poachers are diversifying into stealing livestock, printing counterfeit money and sometimes holding up tourists. Some are even buying assault rifles used in ethnic conflicts.

The conservation militias are often the only security forces around, so they have become de facto 911 squads, rushing off to all sorts of emergencies in areas too remote for the police to quickly gain access to and often getting into shootouts with poachers and bandits.

“This isn’t just about animals,” said Paul Elkan, a director at the Wildlife Conservation Society, who is trying to set up community ranger squads in South Sudan modeled on the Kenyan template. “It’s about security, conflict reconciliation, even nation building.”

The rangers tend to be hardened and uneducated, drawn from different ethnic groups and the surplus of unemployed youth. Gabriel Lesoipa was a goat herder; Joseph Lopeiyok, a cattle rustler; John Pameri won his coveted spot because he was fast — at the time he was selected, the first entry requirement was a grueling 11-mile race.

Many are considered warriors in their communities, experts in so-called bushcraft from years of grazing cattle and goats across the thorny savanna — and defending them against armed raiders. They can follow faint footprints across long, thirsty distances and instantly intuit when someone has trespassed on their land.

The American government is throwing its weight behind such community conservation efforts, contributing more than $4 million to Kenya. But there are obvious risks. In Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other African countries, homegrown militias initially mustered to protect communities have often turned into predators themselves.

“It’s pretty hopeless to stop elephant poaching in Africa unless you get local buy-in,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, one of the world’s most celebrated elephant researchers, who runs Save the Elephants. “But implementing this is a different matter. If you don’t do this carefully, you’ll have people killing each other.”

Nonprofit Army

In 1989, during Africa’s last poaching crisis, Ian Craig sat up on a rock in the craggy Mathews range of northern Kenya, where his family owned a big cattle ranch, and watched helplessly through a pair of binoculars as poachers mowed down a whole herd of elephants.

It was a searing lesson.

“Government couldn’t be everywhere,” he said. “And poaching was everywhere.”

So Mr. Craig, who is often considered the grandfather of Kenya’s community conservation efforts, began enlisting local men to help protect wildlife. At first, the national government refused to arm them, saying there was absolutely no way it was going to deputize civilians, especially when Kenya, like many African countries, has a shoot-to-kill policy for any armed poacher spotted in a wildlife zone.

But after Kenya’s wildlife department changed leadership in the mid-1990s, Mr. Craig prevailed, and he has slowly but steadily built a nonprofit army. The Northern Rangelands Trust, the umbrella organization he helped found in 2004, is made up of 19 communities, with another 32 asking to join. It has 461 scouts patrolling nearly 8,000 square miles; two small airplanes and a million-dollar helicopter on its way; an “ops” center with flat-screen monitors tracking elephants by satellite; and a “strong room” packed with thermal-imagery scopes and a rack of weapons.

Some of the guns are Mr. Craig’s. Others are provided by the Kenya police reserve, which makes a cursory background check before handing out weapons to civilians. But once the guns are in the hands of the roaming citizen-rangers, there is little direct government oversight.

The militiamen receive anywhere from $25 to $320 a month, which comes from the nonprofit wildlife zones, known as conservancies, that are obligated to give 60 percent of their safari revenues to local communities and hire 75 percent local staff.

The local incentive to protect wildlife seems self-evident. Namibia, for instance, now has more than 70 community conservancies. And villagers there take them very seriously, ready to pounce — or at least alert the authorities — if there are any intruders.

“An enemy of wildlife is an enemy of the people,” said Rob Moffett, an executive with Wilderness Safaris, a company in Namibia.

On a recent day, a squad of community scouts near Archer’s Post, in Kenya’s arid north, were guarding Matt, a massive, treetop-high bull with enormous tusks — six feet long and as thick as paint cans, a poacher’s dream. The plan was to shadow Matt as he ranged across the veld, knocking down trees and snacking on leaves.

“No elephants, no money,” explained Mr. Lopeiyok, the former cattle rustler turned scout.

He and the other scouts said that they had killed several poaching suspects, sometimes showing off the pictures, and that they do not blink at taking a human life to protect an elephant’s.

It is difficult to measure the success of the community ranger programs, but Kenya’s poaching levels have declined drastically from the slaughter days of the 1970s and 1980s, when thousands of elephants were poached each year.

This year, Kenyan authorities say, around 350 elephants have been poached, triple the number in 2008 — but those are just the confirmed kills, and many carcasses are never discovered. The government is trying to work more closely with the community rangers, running training courses for some of them.

A Killer Transformed

Mr. Lokinyi is one of the rookie rangers, around 28 years old and slowly emerging from his days of ill repute. His stipend is a mere $25 a month. He calls himself “a volunteer.”

“I had this Somali friend, a poacher, who said to me, ‘You kill elephants, we share,’ ” said Mr. Lokinyi, recalling how he got into the business. “I had raided cattle. I had killed many people. So killing elephants caused no feeling.”

He became the leader of a secretive gang that would take specific orders, maybe 6 tusks today, 10 the next. After they killed the elephants and hacked out the ivory, they waited until the middle of the night to rendezvous with ivory brokers, often Somalis from nearby Isiolo, a frontier town of hard looks where Somalis, Samburus, Boranas and Turkanas have feuded for years. Yet the money he made flowed through his fingers like sand, and he had become a liability for his community, with the authorities constantly looking for him and harassing his relatives.

That is when Benjamin Lopetet stepped in. Mr. Lopetet is a fellow Turkana who left a comfortable job at a bank to run the Nakuprat-Gotu community conservancy, which started last year.

“Whenever we heard of an elephant getting killed,” Mr. Lopetet said, “it was always Lokinyi, Lokinyi, Lokinyi.”

He spent months begging Mr. Lokinyi’s relatives to set up a meeting, and when they finally met last year, Mr. Lopetet explained that Somali ivory traffickers were exploiting Mr. Lokinyi, paying him peanuts and using the money to buy rifles to kill Turkanas. “I realized I was being used,” Mr. Lokinyi said. “And that I was useless.”

Mr. Lopetet offered him a deal: stop poaching elephants and work with us.

Of course, there is always a risk in trying to reform a poacher.

“It’s backfired before,” Mr. Craig said. “We’ve had bad guys become good guys and then bad guys again. But you got to try.”

These days Mr. Lokinyi sports his crisp camouflage fatigues with pride and patrols the same scratchy miles of thorn bush he used to stalk, using his bushcraft to predict where the poachers will strike next. He went through a proper redemption ritual this spring in which goats were slaughtered and fat smeared over his body. He moved into a new home and was even given a new set of ceremonial parents, elders who took him in.

“I’ve done many bad things,” Mr. Lokinyi said. “But now I am clean.”

Author: Jeffrey Gettleman
Source: The New York Times



Environmental and indigenous groups have protested the Xingu River project, which the government says is needed to bring power to the booming country. One villager is waiting as long as he can to leave.

Valcione da Silva makes a living catching tiny, delicate fish in Brazil’s Xingu River. A dam project is forcing him and many others from their homes and livelihoods. (Matthew Teague / Los Angeles Times / December 29, 2012)

SANTO ANTONIO, Brazil — The wind blows in from the river, mingling with the scent of the day’s last meal in the kitchen. The smells of work and home for Valcione da Silva. He sits on a worn bench and watches children play on the floor, laughing. Somewhere outside, a siren begins, long and loud.

Da Silva reaches beneath his bench to retrieve two knives, double-edged like daggers. They’re not weapons, he says, clattering them together. They’re special fishing tools. “Only wood,” he says. He ignores the siren.

He pulls out what appears to be a string of plastic Coke bottles dangling from a belt. “Look,” he says, pressing into the side of a bottle. It flexes open along a slit in the plastic. When he lets go, it springs closed again. “Very simple. I can keep them alive in here.” His fish are delicate, he says.

A moment later a thunderous WHOOMP shakes the little home, and a concussion rolls the air like a wave on the river. Dirt dances on the floor. The nearly bare shelves rattle. Another WHOOMP, and outside in the yard, the leaves of Da Silva’s mango tree flicker green and silver.

Da Silva walks to his doorway with his wooden daggers, and looks like a man standing at the edge of the world.

Over the last year the villagers around him have packed up and left. A few days ago the school closed, because all but Da Silva’s children had left. His wife was the teacher, so she continues their lessons at home. Santo Antonio would look like a ghost town, except that bulldozers have leveled all the empty homes.

Da Silva watches the trucks as they rumble past, carrying countless tons of earth, blown with dynamite from the hillsides where he was born.

“I want to stay and fish,” the 36-year-old says. But it’s early December, and he’ll have to leave soon; clever men with clipboards have outmaneuvered him.

In the morning, he says, he will do the only thing within his power. He’ll break the law.


Progress and the past are colliding at Da Silva’s doorway.

His small home sits at the foot of the Belo Monte dam site, where a consortium is building the third-largest dam in the world, almost four miles across the Xingu River, a $16-billion construction project in the heart of the Amazon basin.

Indigenous peoples and environmental groups have cried out against the dam for reasons local and global; the people here depend on the mighty Xingu River — one of the Amazon’s largest tributaries — for transportation, and their livelihoods. Environmental groups say the dam will destroy rain forest that the world needs to breathe. The builders counter that millions of Brazilians need the electricity, and construction continues.

There had always been talk of a gigantic dam. During the dictatorships of the 1970s, important men made speeches about the riches of the Amazon, waiting to be discovered.

In 1972, President Emilio Medici showed up with a construction crew just outside Santo Antonio. The president cut down a Brazil nut tree — a symbol of the rain forest — and stood on its fresh stump to make a speech about bringing industry, roads and population to the Amazon. Part of the plan, starting in 1975, was to build a massive hydroelectric dam.

There’s a pattern, in Brazilian history, of industries focusing on one natural resource, stripping it, and moving on to another. When Portuguese colonials arrived, the Brazil nut tree was so plentiful that the explorers named the country after it. Now the trees are endangered. Later prospectors found so much gold that they named an entire state Minas Generais, or General Mines. The gold is dwindling too. The same happened with the rubber trees, and the diamonds.

The Amazon’s river system, though, seemed to resist progress for many years. The first bridge in the entire Amazon basin wasn’t built until 2010. The area was too difficult to reach. Too wild a riverbed. Populated by too wild a people.

The dictator’s workers symbolically paved the top of the stump where Medici stood to make his speech, and today it stands shrunken and cracked. Now an enormous concrete power pole looms over the stump. It’s one of an endless series of identical towers, marching electricity to the reawakened site of the dam called Belo Monte: the Beautiful Mountain.


Men came to Da Silva’s door a couple of years ago, and knocked.

We are subcontractors to Norte Energia, the head man told him. We are building the dam.

They entered his home with a clipboard, writing a list of all his meager possessions. He followed them from one small room to another, as questions tumbled through his mind: What on Earth is Norte Energia? And why do these men have a clipboard?

Life in Santo Antonio had stayed quiet for three decades, but elsewhere in Brazil a revolution had been underway, an industrial, financial and cultural revolution. The country had recently surpassed Britain to become the sixth-largest economy in the world. And the Brazilian machine needs electricity.

“Electricity is development,” said Joao Pimentel, director of institutional relations for Norte Energia, a consortium of private and state-held companies that plans to begin operating Belo Monte in 2015. “Without electricity we will go nowhere.”

“If all the electricity went to homes, the dam would provide power for 60 million people,” Pimentel said.

It won’t do that, exactly. Seventy percent of the dam’s power will flow to public utilities, sold on the national grid for business and domestic consumption. The other 30% will be divided among shareholders.

So how many Brazilian citizens will receive electricity once it trickles down? “It’s difficult to say,” Pimentel said.

“That’s a lie,” said professor Rodolfo Salm, who researches ecology at the federal university in Altamira, the largest town near the dam site. “This energy is not for homes, it is for mining.”

As Brazil expands its economic reach in the world, Salm said, it exports more goods. Aluminum, for instance.

“It takes a lot of energy to produce aluminum,” he said. “In Japan, they need aluminum but have an energy shortage. So what we are really doing is exporting energy.”

The ecological repercussions are more complex, he said. Hydropower is among the cleanest ways to make electricity, but in the Amazonian rain forest the consequences unfurl in ways that can’t be fully predicted. Belo Monte is only the beginning: The government is expected to grant concessions for at least 30 dams in coming years. The resultant flooding could cover thousands of square miles of rain forest, Salm said, releasing vast quantities of methane gas from rotted trees.

“The deforestation is already happening,” the professor said. People are moving to Altamira on the promise of an economic boom from the dam, and where the human population goes, trees disappear. “This year’s rains should have begun by now,” he said, pointing to a dusty window. “But they haven’t. It’s because we get our rains from the forest.”

The list of consequences grows.

“Look at the fish species,” the professor said. “As oxygen in the water lowers, they cannot survive. They die, and it breaks the ecology.”

The men with the clipboard, when they entered Valcione da Silva’s house two years ago, weren’t impressed with the possessions he valued most: his wooden daggers and Coke bottles. They would tally his worth back at their office, they said, and make him a settlement offer. They suggested he accept it.


Da Silva’s brother-in-law, Alessandro da Silva, joins him, and they sling their equipment in packs over their shoulders.

They climb onto Da Silva’s off-road motorcycle. He fires it up, and the two scoot into the rumble of transfer trucks. Dust coats the men, and the tires of the other vehicles tower above them.

Gigantic machines scrape and gouge and dynamite rock and dirt and load it into the trucks, which haul it to other sites, where they unload and repeat. Da Silva and Alessandro weave through a landscape that stopped resembling the rain forest long ago; now it looks lunar.

Off a side road they pass the village’s empty church, and the demolished houses of their former neighbors. As they get closer to the Xingu River the signs start appearing: Do not enter, they say. This land is now protected by the law. Do not enter.

They pass a water depot, where a machine pumps river water into trucks that will spray it along the roads to keep down the dust. The rain has not yet come.

More signs: Do not enter.

The two men drop on their motorbike over the riverbank, out of sight. Working quickly, they slide down the bank to their dugout canoe, crank its small motor and then navigate into the Xingu.

The Xingu is special among all rivers in the Amazon system. Where the Amazon descends just 260 feet over its length of almost 4,000 miles, the Xingu drops 295 feet over a 60-mile segment here.

And it is special for another reason, Da Silva says.

“Getting close now,” he says.

He putters past another sign, this one bobbing in the water: Do not enter.


The Belo Monte project itself was deemed illegal, briefly, by a Brazilian federal court. In mid-August, the court intervened to halt all construction.

Two weeks later, the Supreme Court reversed the decision. Civil rights and environmental groups cried out against the decision, claiming the court had bowed to pressure from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, whose election last year was underwritten in part by the companies interested in building the dam.

In September, the indigenous peoples who live in the dam-affected area rose up and overtook one of the dam’s largest construction sites. About 150 protesters, wielding clubs and spears, held the site for several days until Norte Energia’s representatives heard their concerns.

Another group, of indigenous fishermen, gathered in November. They converged on Norte Energia’s waterfront office in Altamira, demanding to know what sort of settlement the company would offer them once they’re no longer able to fish on the Xingu.

One of their leaders was Cecilio Kayapo, a man with skin like tree bark. Afterward, he shrugged. “They have told us nothing new,” he said. And then a common, defeated refrain among the fishermen: “They are clever.”

For a moment Kayapo stood and looked at an enormous, meticulous model of the Xingu under glass in Norte Energia’s office. He surveyed the water he had navigated his whole life, but from this vantage, none of it made sense.

The dam is a complex, multi-stage affair, but it will work like this: The Xingu flows downhill from Altamira to Santo Antonio — Valcione da Silva’s village — where the water will crank the dam’s turbines. Between those two points, though, the river swings through what locals call the Big Bend. It’s a wide loop where botanists, zoologists and anthropologists study life of all sorts; it’s also flat, so the river loses much of its valuable energy. So a support dam will shunt most of the Xingu directly from Altamira to the dam, through a man-made canal. It will cut out the Big Bend and slowly lower the river there.

Kayapo wanted to speak with the people of the Big Bend. He began a two-day journey in his small boat. The Arara tribe greeted him warmly, and the leader, Leoncio Arara, called a meeting in his hut. After Kayapo’s defeated report, the chief nodded. “They are clever,” he said.

He was 74 years old. He counted on his fingers the important moments of his life — all on the river — and finally threw up his hands. “The river is our road, and our food,” he said. “It is our life.”


Valcione da Silva steers his dugout boat around a final bend.

He will take the settlement, he says. He has no choice. Norte Energia alone cannot cast him from his home, but the government can. He will have to take the money — about $20,000, he says — and move from his home. But he will hold out as long as possible.

He stops the boat at the center of the river, and Alessandro throws out the anchor. At the center of the boat, Da Silva takes the cover off a funny old engine, which looks like something salvaged from a steam ship. It’s bright yellow, all gears and wheels and chains. It sputters to life.

“Air compressor,” Da Silva says. Two plastic tubes run from the engine, and the two men each place the free ends in their mouths. They pull on goggles, strap the Coke bottles around their waists, and tuck the wooden daggers into their belts.

They leap.

The bashing of the dump trucks fades, and the heat of the sun gives way to cool water. The dirt from the dam construction swirls around him, even underwater. Every day there are fewer fish to be found.

Da Silva dives deeper, and as he descends, darkness closes around him. He flicks on a waterproof flashlight.

Along the riverbed he finds the rocks he wants, stacked and smoothed by countless years of flowing water. He pulls the daggers from his waistband and reaches with them to the underside of the rocks, pulling the wooden edge along the stone.

Slowly he finds them — the beautiful fish. Ornate, tiny fish. Rare fish. At the market in Altamira he can sell them for $2 or $3, although they will sell for a hundred times that much eventually. He doesn’t know the scientific names, or the ones they’ll have by the time they reach aquariums in Tokyo or New York. But here they’re called the zebra, the old black man, the tiger.

They resist, hiding under the river rocks. But his daggers eventually, inevitably, sweep them from their homes.

Author: Matthew Teague
Source: Los Angeles Times


Mais de US$ 300 milhões já foram prometidos para o plano do Equador de evitar a extração de petróleo do solo da reserva Yasuní Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT). A ideia, apresentada em 2007, é arrecadar US$ 3,6 bilhões em 13 anos para que o petróleo não seja retirado do subterrâneo da reserva, o que alteraria seriamente o local, colocando em risco os ecossistemas da região.

Apesar do ceticismo em relação ao projeto, desde que o plano foi lançado formalmente, em 2011, cerca de US$ 300 milhões já foram prometidos por governos, empresas, ONGs e indivíduos da sociedade civil.

A Alemanha, por exemplo, ofereceu US$ 50 milhões ao longo de três anos, enquanto dez regiões da Europa prometeram contribuir com US$ 150-250 milhões, juntamente com instituições como a Coca-Cola, companhias aéreas, bancos e fundações brasileiras, norte-americanas e russas.

Apesar de apenas US$ 64 milhões terem sido depositados, pelo menos US$ 187 milhões vindos da Bélgica, Brasil, Catar, Espanha, França, Indonésia, Líbano e Turquia devem ser destinados ao projeto em breve.

O capital não é dado diretamente para o governo equatoriano, mas colocado em fundos e administrado pelo Programa de Desenvolvimento da ONU. Esse dinheiro deve ser destinado a projetos de energia renovável e ao apoio ao reflorestamento e à conservação, além de projetos sociais na região.

“O que temos na terra de Yasuní é muito mais do que temos no subsolo. Passamos por apenas um ano e já estamos a caminho de salvar a floresta. O que estimulou governos como a Alemanha e a França foi o povo. Na Alemanha mais de 100 mil pessoas assinaram a petição em uma semana”, comentou Ivonne Baki, diretora do comitê de negociação da Yasuní-ITT.

“O Equador não quer depender do petróleo e essa é uma forma de fazer isso. Os países petrolíferos são amaldiçoados. Países emergentes costumam apostar tanto no petróleo que não desenvolvem nada mais. Produzem corrupção e os pobres pagam o preço. O único benefício vai para as elites”, concluiu.

Crédito Imagem: Comitê de negociação da Yasuní-ITT

Autor: Jéssica Lipinski
Fonte: Instituto CarbonoBrasil


The Ross Sea in Antarctica is one of the areas in the Southern Ocean where the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was trying to establish a protected area. The area is rich with marine life. (John B. Weller)

Proposals to establish marine reserves in two critical areas of the Southern Ocean were stymied by Russia, China and Ukraine at the end of a two-week international summit in Australia on Thursday. Commercial fishing restrictions in the proposed sanctuaries proved to be the main sticking point.

A meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, Australia ended in deadlock on Thursday when member nations failed to reach agreement on new protected areas across Antarctica, home to the world’s most intact marine ecosystem.

The two-week CCAMLR talks, attended by representatives from 24 nations and the European Union, were geared at establishing giant marine sanctuaries in two critical areas of the Southern Ocean.
One of the most pristine ocean regions in the world, its waters are home to penguins, seals, whales and seabirds, whose food sources are increasingly under threat from climate change and overfishing. At stake are the region’s stocks of krill, a valuable crustacean which is the keystone species of the Antarctic ecosystem. The growing global demand for animal feed and fish bait is causing a rapid decline in its numbers.

“Antarctica is home to unique ecosystems,” said German Agricultural Minister Ilse Aigner ahead of the talks, pledging that Germany would “actively support protection of its oceans.”

A US-New Zealand plan foresaw a 1.6 million square kilometer protected area in the Ross Sea, while nations led by the EU and Australia had proposed a series of reserves encompassing 1.9 million square kilometers — an area bigger than Alaska.

Commercial Versus Conservation Interests

But these efforts were thwarted by resistance from China, Russia and Ukraine, which raised objections to fishing restrictions in the proposed reserve on the grounds they would have too much impact on their annual hauls.

“(Establishing marine reserves) is a complex process involving a large amount of scientific research as well as international diplomacy,” said CCAMLR in a statement. “It was decided … that further consideration of the proposals is needed.” Amid the lack of consensus, the decision on the ocean sanctuary was postponed until a special session to be held in Germany in July 2013.

Environmentalists expressed their concern at the outcome of the CCAMLR talks. “We’re deeply disappointed,” Steve Campbell of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance told Reuters. “Members failed to establish any large-scale Antarctic marine protection because a number of countries actively blocked conservation efforts.”
“CCAMLR has behaved like a fisheries organization instead of an organization dedicated to conservation of Antarctic waters,” railed Farah Obaidullah of Greenpeace.

Gerry Leape from the Pew Environment Group agreed, telling AFP that “In 2011, participating countries agreed to work together to protect and conserve the unique marine life that thrives in the ocean surrounding Antarctica. Instead, they are heading home and leaving the door wide open to unchecked commercial fishing in these areas.”

jp — with wire reports

Source: Spiegel International


Lobo ibérico é uma das espécies que existem no concelho. (Foto: Foto: Pedro Cunha)

A câmara e a universidade de Vila Real lançaram uma plataforma na Internet que concentra dois anos de investigação sobre a biodiversidade do concelho e possibilita uma viagem virtual pela fauna e pela flora locais.

A Plataforma da Biodiversidade foi desenvolvida pela Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD) no âmbito do Programa de Preservação da Biodiversidade de Vila Real, que contou com 1,7 milhões de euros para a protecção das espécies da flora e da fauna do concelho.

O vereador do Ambiente, Miguel Esteves, explicou que a nova ferramenta, que classificou como “pioneira no país”, permite “explorar, através da Internet, o concelho”.

Em causa estão dois anos de investigação e de monitorização no terreno realizadas pela UTAD. Nesta plataforma será possível saber, através da georreferenciação, onde se encontram determinadas espécies no território.

No concelho destacam-se animais como o lobo ibérico, a gralha-de-bico-vermelho ou a borboleta azul.

A pesquisa pode ser feita por espécie ou por zonas e estão ainda disponíveis informações sobre a biologia, o habitat ou o estado de conservação de cada espécie animal ou vegetal. O projecto permite ainda identificar um conjunto de percursos pedestres e de pastoreio e os rios do concelho.

Mais tarde, a plataforma estará ainda disponível em inglês.

O encerramento do Programa de Preservação da Biodiversidade de Vila Real ocorrerá com realização de um fórum internacional agendado para 21 e 22 de Março de 2012.

Antes, o município transmontano vai ainda requalificar o Parque Corgo e recuperar as margens do rio. A intervenção está orçada em cerca de 800 mil euros.

O projecto prevê a recuperação de pequenas represas que conduziam a água pelas levadas para regar os terrenos agrícolas e de alguns antigos moinhos.

Vai ainda ser construído um novo caminho na margem esquerda do rio que vai servir as hortas comunitárias que a autarquia vai disponibilizar para as famílias carenciadas.

Autor: Lusa
Fonte: Ecosfera


Portugal é responsável por 1/3 da produção mundial de cortiça. (Foto: Foto: Paulo Ricca)

Um centro de investigação do Alentejo vai descodificar o código genético do sobreiro, a espécie florestal com maior interesse socioeconómico em Portugal, através de um projecto que arranca em 2013 e custará 1,1 milhões de euros.

O GenoSuber – Sequenciação do genoma do sobreiro já foi aprovado para financiamento comunitário pelo programa operacional INAlentejo e deverá arrancar em Janeiro de 2013, disse na terça-feira à Lusa Sónia Gonçalves, do Centro de Biotecnologia Agrícola e Agroalimentar do Baixo Alentejo e Litoral (CEBAL), o promotor do projecto.

A investigação vai durar dois anos e meio e tem como objectivo descodificar e conhecer o património genético do sobreiro, “a espécie florestal com maior interesse económico e social em Portugal”, explicou Sónia Gonçalves. O montado de sobro, a base da indústria corticeira, “assume uma importância ecológica e socioeconómica” em Portugal que “justifica a realização do projecto no país”, frisou a investigadora, referindo que, através do GenoSuber, “Portugal está na vanguarda da investigação em sobreiro”.

Devido à importância desta árvore em Portugal, que é responsável por cerca de 1/3 da produção mundial de cortiça, “faz todo o sentido ser o país a liderar a descodificação do genoma” (código genético) e a “deter o conhecimento máximo a nível genómico”, frisou.

Segundo Sónia Gonçalves, a descodificação do genoma do sobreiro, que será feita com “tecnologia de última geração”, vai permitir “um avanço no conhecimento e melhoramento genético da espécie, em questões relacionadas, por exemplo, com o desenvolvimento da árvore, a formação da cortiça e as respostas a ´stress`, com especial enfoque na resistência a doenças”.

Através da descodificação do genoma, será possível “identificar a sequência dos genes presentes numa espécie”, o que já foi feito no genoma humano e de outras espécies vegetais, mas no sobreiro “será a primeira vez”, disse.

Segundo Sónia Gonçalves, “a identificação dos genes poderá ajudar depois a realizar estudos mais direccionados e será uma mais-valia para o conhecimento” do sobreiro.

Conhecer genoma pode impulsionar sector da cortiça

O GenoSuber vai “trazer uma nova dimensão” à fileira florestal portuguesa ao abrir a possibilidade de delinear estratégias de melhoramento da espécie, “com importantes repercussões a médio e longo prazo no sector” da cortiça.

O projecto, orçado em 1,132 milhões de euros, será financiado em 80% por fundos comunitários, através do INAlentejo, sendo a verba restante assegurada por entidades privadas.

Além do CEBAL, o projecto envolve o Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica da Universidade Nova de Lisboa, o Instituto de Biologia Experimental e Tecnológica, a Biocant – Associação de Transferência de Tecnologia, o Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e Veterinária e o Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência.

O projecto, que envolve 28 investigadores, terá como consultores o professor belga Yves Van de Peer, da Ghent University (Bélgica), e o professor norte-americano Gerald Tuskan, do Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Estados Unidos da América).

Autor: Lusa
Fonte: Ecosfera


A evidência de que pesticidas comuns podem ser parcialmente responsáveis pelo declínio no número de abelhas continua aumentando. Muitos estudos recentes têm mostrado que pesticidas conhecidos como “neonicotinoides” podem causar vários impactos em longo prazo em colônias de abelhas, incluindo menos rainhas, abelhas operárias que se perdem e, em alguns casos, um colapso total da colmeia.

Os estudos têm sido tão convincentes que recentemente a França baniu o uso de pesticidas neonicotinoides.

Agora uma nova pesquisa descobriu mais evidências do mal causado pelos pesticidas, incluindo que as abelhas que são expostas a mais de um químico, ou seja, neonicotinoides e piretroides, são mais vulneráveis.

Em áreas agrícolas, pesticidas não são pulverizados em um ambiente controlado, e insetos como abelhas podem ficar expostos não apenas a um tipo de pesticida, mas a todo um coquetel deles. Por isso, os pesquisadores da Universidade de Londres estavam curiosos para saber como as abelhas, que recentemente foram reduzidas em número em muitas partes do mundo, saíam-se quando confrontadas com uma mistura de diferentes químicos em vez de um só.

Os cientistas dividiram 40 colônias de abelhas em quatro grupos. Um grupo foi exposto ao imidacloprida, um pesticida da família dos neonicotinoides; um segundo grupo foi exposto ao gama-cialotrina, um piretroide; um terceiro grupo foi exposto a ambos os químicos; e o último grupo não foi exposto a nenhum.

As abelhas foram expostas a doses que seriam comumente encontradas em campo e foram então monitoradas por uma tecnologia de identificação de frequência de rádio (RFID).

Os pesquisadores descobriram que as abelhas expostas ao imidacloprida perderam 41% de suas operárias em quatro semanas, comparados com os 30% das colônias de controle. No geral, a produtividade das operárias diminuiu, significando menos comida para a colmeia e menos abelhas se desenvolvendo da fase de larva, descobertas que são apoiadas por pesquisas anteriores.

As abelhas expostas apenas ao gama-cialotrina experimentaram uma taxa mais alta de mortalidade para as operárias, chegando a 51%. Mas as abelhas expostas a ambos os químicos foram as piores, perdendo 69%.

Duas das dez colônias tratadas com ambos os químicos colapsaram completamente dentro de apenas quatro semanas.

“É certamente preocupante que ter essa combinação de pesticidas lá fora possa causar um impacto tão severo […] apenas observamos dois pesticidas, mas sabemos que há centenas de pesticidas por aí”, disse um dos autores, Richard Gill, em um vídeo da Nature.

Esses impactos provavelmente também tornarão as abelhas mais vulneráveis a outras ameaças, como doenças.

Pesquisas anteriores também mostraram que a exposição a pesticidas pode resultar em Distúrbio do Colapso de Colônias (CCD) dentro de um período de meses. Cientistas dos EUA introduziram minúsculas doses de pesticidas neonicotinoides em 16 colmeias, e deixaram quatro colmeias não expostas. Nos primeiros meses, todas as colmeias de abelhas permaneceram saudáveis, mas depois de seis meses mais de 90% (15 de 16) das colmeias com pesticidas colapsaram, enquanto as quatro colmeias de controle continuaram saudáveis.

“Não há dúvida de que os neonicotinoides colocam um grande estresse sobre a sobrevivência das abelhas no ambiente”, afirmou um dos autores, Chensheng (Alex) Lu, professor associado da HSPH, ao em abril.

Levou um longo tempo para que os cientistas fizessem a conexão entre a saúde das abelhas e os pesticidas, em parte por causa da forma como os agroquímicos são testados. Quando em fase de testes, os cientistas procuram ver se os pesticidas são letais, por exemplo, se eles matam imediatamente insetos benéficos como abelhas. No entanto, o foco são os impactos “subletais” dos pesticidas, ou seja, os impactos que não matam definitivamente as abelhas, mas que as prejudicam em longo prazo.

O outro problema é testar em períodos curtos de tempo, enquanto os impactos subletais podem não se tornar claros por semanas ou mesmo meses. O quadro se torna ainda mais complicado quando se considera que os pesticidas podem tornar as abelhas mais vulneráveis a outros efeitos conhecidos, como a perda de habitat e doenças.

O declínio das abelhas se tornou uma grande preocupação, já que elas estão entre os polinizadores mais importantes do mundo, tanto para colheitas agrícolas quanto para plantas selvagens. Alguns produtores na América do Norte e na Europa observaram que 90% de suas colmeias colapsaram. Embora tais colapsos periódicos já tenham ocorrido no passado, provavelmente ligados a doenças, a crise atual parece muito pior. O valor econômico das abelhas apenas nos EUA foi estimado em US$ 8-12 bilhões.

Traduzido por Jéssica Lipinski, Instituto CarbonoBrasil

Autor: Jeremy Hance –
Fonte: Instituto CarbonoBrasil


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