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Thursday, May 21, 2009

How to Save Tropical Rainforests

Today tropical rainforests are disappearing from the face of the globe. Despite growing international concern, rainforests continue to be destroyed at a pace exceeding 80,000 acres (32,000 hectares) per day. World rainforest cover now stands at around 2.5 million square miles (6 million square kilometers), an area about the size of the contiguous 48 United States or Australia and representing around 5 percent of the world's land surface. Much of this remaining area has been impacted by human activities and no longer retains its full original biodiversity.

Five Basic Steps to Saving Rainforests

"TREES" is a concept originally devised for an elementary school audience but serves well as set of principles for saving rainforests and, on a broader scale, ecosystems around the world.
  • Teach others about the importance of the environment and how they can help save rainforests.
  • Restore damaged ecosystems by planting trees on land where forests have been cut down.
  • Encourage people to live in a way that doesn't hurt the environment.
  • Establish parks to protect rainforests and wildlife.
  • Support companies that operate in ways that minimize damage to the environment.

Deforestation of tropical rainforests has a global impact through species extinction, the loss of important ecosystem services and renewable resources, and the reduction of carbon sinks. However, this destruction can be slowed, stopped, and in some cases even reversed. Most people agree that the problem must be remedied, but the means are not as simple as fortifying fences around the remaining rainforests or banning the timber trade. Economic, political, and social pressures will not allow rainforests to persist if they are completely closed off from use and development

So, what should be done? The solution must be based on what is feasible, not overly idealistic, and depends on developing a new conservation policy built on the principle of sustainable use and development of rainforests. Beyond the responsible development of rainforests, efforts to rehabilitate and restore degraded forest lands along with the establishment of protected areas are key to securing rainforests for the long-term benefits they can provide mankind.

Taken from Mongabay.com

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Flu epidemic killing bonobos in Congo sanctuary

Located in sixty acres of forest, the Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary is a place for bonobos who have been confiscated by police following attempts to sell them to pet markets in the US, Europe, or Middle East. The sanctuary provides rehabilitation for the bonobos and educates the local populace about the apes in an effort to curb hunting bush meat, one of the major threats to bonobos and apes across Africa. The center eventually hopes to reintroduce some of the bonobos back into the wild.

Bonobos are smaller than Common chimpanzees. They also sport pink lips and a black face. Behaviorally, bonobos are quite different from common chimpanzees. Whereas common chimpanzees live in patriarchal groups, bonobo groups are dominated by females. They are less violent than chimpanzees and do not engage in warfare like common chimpanzees. In addition, bonobos are famous for their sexual openness, including using sexual activity as a greeting and a way of mitigating conflict.

Bonobos are listed as endangered by IUCN's Red List. Only found in the DRC estimates of their population vary widely, from 5,000 to 50,000 individuals. Bonobos are threatened by habitat loss, deforestation, the pet trade, the bushmeat market, and even for use in witchcraft.

Six bonobos, a species of chimpanzee, have died from a flu epidemic in a month at the Lola Ya Bonobo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ten more have contracted the flu.

“There is no fever. Antibiotics don’t do anything. The bonobos have severe respiratory infections and then they can’t breath for 3 days then they die,” writes a staff member on the sanctuary's blog through the conservation organization WildlifeDirect. The staff of Lola Ya Bonobo have sent out a plea for help and donations, as the flu continues to sweep through their center.

Taken from:
Flu epidemic killing bonobos in Congo sanctuary
Jeremy Hance
March 29, 2009

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

14,000-barrel oil spill in the Ecuadorean Amazon

A ruptured oil pipeline caused 14,000 barrels of crude to spill into a river in the Napo region in northeast Ecuador, an area known for its high biological diversity, reports Reuters.

The pipeline operator, Oleoducto de Crudos Pesados Ecuador SA, attributed the rupture to "natural causes."

The environmental impacts of the spill were not immediately apparent but scientist Douglas Beltman told Reuters that "the river was completely covered with oil from bank to bank.... it looked like a bad spill."

At least 35 multinational oil and gas companies operate the 180 blocks that cover 266,000 square miles of the Western Amazon in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and western Brazil.

Beltman is evaluating oil pollution in the region on behalf of plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Chevron over damages wrought by Texaco — now owned by Chevron — from 1972-1992. The stakes for Chevron are high — the suit could result in a multi-billion dollar payout to 30,000 indigenous tribe members and poor farmers.

Oil exploration in widespread in the western Amazon. A study published last year showed that 688,000 square kilometers (170 million acres) of the region is under concession for oil and gas development, including 72 percent — of the Peruvian Amazon, an area significantly larger than California. Some of the concessions overlap with protected areas and indigenous reserves.

Environmentalists have voiced grave concern over these developments. Oil and gas extraction can result in direct deforestation as well as contamination of waterways and lands with oil and drilling byproducts. In Ecuador, the law suit against Chevron estimates that Texaco spilled more than 17 million gallons (64 million liters) of crude oil and dumped some 20 million gallons (68 million liters) of other toxic chemicals into rivers during its years of operation.

Oil and gas development is often accompanied by road-building which provides access to previously remote areas and facilitates deforestation, colonization, and illegal logging, mining, and hunting.

February 27, 2009

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Costa Rican gold mine suspended over pollution risks

A multinational coalition of environmental and human rights organisations is calling on Canadian mining company Glencairn Gold Corporation to disclose information about suspected cyanide and metals pollution from its Bellavista gold mine in Costa Rica. Glencairn shut down the mine in late July, following heavy rains that caused substantial earth movements, and has reported in financial statements that the mine “may remain closed indefinitely”, but has not made available any information about the extent of current or potential damage. The groups also demand proper clean-up and remediation of any current or future contamination.

Bellavista is an openpit gold mine, and uses cyanide heap-leaching – in which huge piles of crushed ore are soaked with a cyanide solution – to extract gold. According to Glencairn, heavy rainfall in May led to significant earth movements that disturbed these massive heaps of cyanide-tainted wastes as well as other waste rock piles at the mine. Experts familiar with the mine fear that such conditions could lead to pollution of water and soil with cyanide and other contaminants owing to a rupture in the leach-pad lining. Glencairn has said that it first noticed cracks in two corners of the leach pad in May, but the company continued to operate the mine and apply cyanide until July 25.

“Putting an openpit gold mine in a mountainous, tropical region, prone to landslides and torrential rainfall, is a disaster waiting to happen,” says Interamerican Association for Environmental Defence chemist Dr Anna Cederstav. In 2005, Cederstav had testified before Costa Rica’s Supreme Court about the likely impacts of the Bellavista mine. Even before the mine was approved, Cederstav and other independent technical experts had warned that the region’s topo-graphy and rainfall make it an inappropriate location for a large-scale mine.

Cleaning up and con-trolling mining pollution can be extremely expensive, costing hundreds of millions of dollars for long-term treatment to protect water supplies. Glencairn has provided just $250 000 in financial guarantees for Bellavista – funds which are intended for mine clean-up, and do not provide insurance against mishaps like the unstable leach pad.

The coalition calls on the Costa Rican government to commission a team of independent technical experts to conduct a review of the Bellavista mine, and to ensure that Glencairn will undertake and fully cover the costs of all necessary mitigation and remediation.

“Glencairn must make sure that communities around the mine are protected from pollution, and that includes paying for clean-up,” says Earthworks and the “No Dirty Gold” campaign representative, Payal Sampat. “Otherwise, taxpayers and communities are stuck with the bill – and the pollution.”

Costa Rica outlawed all new openpit mining in 2002, but the Bellavista mine was given a permit prior to the ban. It is the only large operating openpit mine in this ecotourism-dependent country.

“Costa Rica has had the foresight to ban openpit mining, which can be incredibly destructive to people and the environment,” said Costa Rican Friends of the Earth spokesperson Gabriel Rivas-Ducca. “We hope this incident will serve as a warning to other regions that are opening their doors to gold-mining.”

Cyanide and the metal contamination produced at mines such as this are toxic to humans and extremely dangerous for wildlife, especially aquatic species. If mixed with acidic water, typically present at gold mines, cyanide generates hydrogen cyanide gas, an even more potent poison. Gold-mining can also cause significant pollution of soil and water with sulphuric acid drainage and metals such as arsenic and mercury.


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